[for those who have been here before]
I. So THERE WE WERE …
n the Republic of Panamá. It was the mid-eighties. Macdonald was nearing the end of a career in the US Navy and Doyle was teaching freshman composition at the University of Florida extension campus. And new English-language science fiction wasn’t easy to find. The tropical sun did something to our brains, and we started writing short stories, mostly for our own amusement. Or, to be more accurate, Doyle started writing them.
One of the stories—a vignette, really—dealt with a young lady named Beka who’d just been given a spaceship by her father. Odd and exciting doings were hinted at. Macdonald enjoyed reading the story (as did our friend Sherwood Smith, a writer in California with whom we shared our manuscripts). Macdonald got to like Beka, and pestered Doyle for the next story about her. Doyle, who was absorbed by that time in another project, said words to the effect of, “If you want another story, write it yourself.”
So Beka landed her spaceship, and spent some twenty double-spaced pages working through all the routine of clearing a cargo through customs in a foreign port, before a booted foot slammed unexpectantly into her knee, knocking her to the ground so that an assassin’s shot would miss her head. The boot belonged to a mild-mannered, elderly gentleman with a mysterious past. He and Beka went on to have adventures together.
Doyle took the manuscript, cut out the twenty-page meticulously detailed depiction of filling out paperwork in a government office, poured a bottle of bleach over the purple prose, and said, “Well, go on.” The first part of the story went off to California, where Sherwood likewise read it and called for more.
Two hundred pages later, we were still calling the piece “the short story” (being at that point still unclear on the concept of “novel-length”) and the older gentleman had gained a name. He was the “Professor.” The Prof and Beka continued to have adventures, mailed off to California at the rate of one every couple of weeks, with each episode ending with a cliffhanger. The new episode would go off by mail to California, Sherwood would reply “Arrrgh!” and we’d be off for the next round.
Move forward a few years of real time. Macdonald was out of the Navy, and was living with Doyle in New Hampshire, far removed from the tropics. They had written and published eight young-adult novels. Their method was pretty much the same one that they had developed while working on the “short story.” Macdonald would write a first draft/outline, Doyle would put it into English, and then they’d argue about the details. They were both between projects and that collection of pages about Beka and the Professor looked like it could be made into a real novel.
So, as they say, it came to pass.
The Price of the Stars
was published as a paperback original in 1992. By the end of the novel, the Professor was dead.
But you can’t keep a good character down. The Prof had a lot of mysterious past to explore. In the third Mageworlds book,
By Honor Betray’d
we finally learned his true name—Arekhon Khreseio sus-Khalgaeth sus-Peledaen—and in the prequel volume,
The Gathering Flame,
we met him as Ser Hafrey, Armsmaster to House Rosselin. His influence extended, in fact, throughout the entire series, so that Doyle eventually asserted that if she ever wrote another Mageworlds book, it would be about the Professor as a young … well, as a young whatever he really was, way back then on the other side of the galaxy.
II. THE DARK ON THE OTHER SIDE
Which brings us to the present work. When we came to write this volume, we realized that in the course of five Mageworlds novels we had scarcely visited the Mageworlds themselves at all. Beka Rosselin-Metadi and Nyls Jessan touched ground briefly on Raamet and Ninglin and Eraasi; Errec Ransome was held prisoner for a short while on Cracanth; but little more than that.
And our characters, by and large, were not going to give us any sympathy when we felt guilty. From the viewpoint of the civilized galaxy—as the worlds which later became the Republic and its allies liked to think of themselves—the Mageworlds were a menace, home to a faceless enemy.
“The Mageworlds” was not even the raiders’ own name for their place of origin. The name they used, most of the time, was simply “the homeworlds.” Sometimes they, or the more politically aware among their adversaries, would call themselves “Eraasians,” from the dominant planet in their loose confederation.
Even more than the Mageworlds’ attempts at conquest, the metaphysical differences between the two cultures set them at odds. In the civilized galaxy, those who worked with and through the power inherent in the universe called themselves Adepts. Their philosophy favored individual action over collective effort, and they believed in riding the natural flow of power in the universe and letting that flow add to their own strengths.
On their own worlds, the Adepts were historically regarded with both distrust and superstitious awe. As a consequence, they became, as a group, inclined toward secrecy and the protection of their own. Tradition set the Adepts apart from formal involvement in political life; during certain periods, however, their informal participation was considerable. The years during and immediately after the First Magewar were especially noteworthy in this regard.
The Mages, as they referred to themselves (their enemies then expanded the term to cover an entire society, and not merely a comparative few of its members), were integrated into the public life of their worlds as the more solitary Adepts never were. Believing in group action and in the combination of forces toward a single effort, the Mages regarded the power resident in the universe as something to be manipulated and worked with directly. For the Adepts, on the other hand, actually making changes in the flow of power, or attempting to impose a pattern on that flow, was regarded as nothing less than an abomination—“sorcery,” as Llannat Hyfid describes it when she first feels it in action on Darvell; “Magework and dark sorcery.”
Another philosophical dividing point between the two cultures came on the question of luck. The philosophy of the Adepts, in its strictest form, holds that there is no such thing as luck at all, only the natural flow of power in the universe. Those people who are spoken of by others as “lucky” are regarded by the Adepts as having an innate sense of this power flow, of where it goes and of when and how it is about to change. Even among people who believe in luck in its more casual sense, there is no feeling that luck is subject to conscious manipulation.
The Mages, on the other hand, view luck as something real in itself, and inextricably bound up with human life. Grand Admiral sus-Airaalin of the Mageworlds Resurgency speaks of Beka Rosselin-Metadi as a “luck-maker”; something of the same quality, in the Mages’ view, also attaches to her father, Jos Metadi, “whose luck two generations of Magelords had tried in vain to break.” The forces of life and luck together make up the
perceived by working Mages as a network of silver cords. Attempts on a Mage-Circle’s part to untangle the
of a particular place, or to bring them into a more pleasing pattern, are often experienced by Adepts as unnatural changes or damage to the natural flow of power.
In the aftermath of the First Magewar, these philosophical differences—and, of course, the atrocities committed by the Mageworlders on Ilarna and Sapne and Entibor—almost proved fatal to the Eraasian worlds. Driven by a need for security and a desire for revenge, the military forces of the victorious Republic did their best to reduce Eraasian industrial capacity below the level necessary to wage interstellar war. At the same time, Errec Ransome and his Adepts strove to break the Mage-Circles and eliminate their practices from the civilized galaxy. The combined result was not so much a period of occupation and pacification as it was—to quote the Ilarnan scholar Vinhalyn, who observed the process as a young officer with the Republic’s Space Force—“the systematic destruction of a culture cognate to ours, yet unimaginably alien.”
III. CONCERNING THE SUNDERING OF THE GALAXY
A great expanse of starless space separates the Mageworlds from the rest of the galaxy. In Mageworlds legend, this interstellar gap was the product of the Sundering of the Galaxy, a catastrophic event with theological or metaphysical roots, prior to which the gap did not exist. The story of the Sundering also exists on the other side of the gap, although the versions current in the rest of the galaxy differ considerably in their details.
Whatever the actual cause and origin of the interstellar gap, it looms much larger in Mageworlds thinking than it does in the greater galactic culture. Some scholars conclude therefore that Eraasi and the other Mageworlds suffered more than the rest of the galaxy from the effects of the Sundering, and thus retained more memories, however distant, of the actual event. Others take the opposite position, and assert that the Sundering’s effect on the rest of the galaxy was so much greater that on those worlds proportionately more memory of the event was lost.
IV. OTHER CULTURAL CHANGES
The astute reader will notice a number of differences, both small and large, between the Eraasian worlds as they appear at this earlier point in their history and as they became by the time of the First and Second Magewars. The Eraasian language provides an instructive example. Five hundred years, give or take (and depending upon which planet’s revolution is used to define the term), separate the events chronicled in this book from those of the later Magewars; Eraasian speech did not go unchanged in the interim. The reader should note especially the tendency toward greater diphthongization over time, as exemplified in
vice the later
Also contrast the family name
with its later spelling (as derived from Ignac’ LeSoit’s pronunciation)
Noticeable changes also occurred in Circle garb and procedure during the five-hundred-year gap. Readers will notice the absence, in earlier times, of the
or full-face mask. The Mage-Circles of Llannat Hyfid’s and Mael Taleion’s day justify the use of the mask as allowing a clearer perception of the
More recently gathered historical evidence suggests—in view of the fact that the
also provides its wearer with anonymity—that the change had its roots in political developments in the Eraasian hegemony.
Also worth noting are the differing conceptions of the relationship between hyperspace and the Void. In the rest of the civilized galaxy, technology and cosmology draw a careful distinction between hyperspace (as traveled through by starships) and the Void (as visited but mostly steered clear of by Adepts). Eraasians, however, view the two places/phenomena as essentially the same.